June 1945 – Tadhg Daniels sees a woman clad in strange clothes and a feathered cloak, but she’s invisible to everyone else. He’s convinced his mind has been unhinged by the horrors of the D-day landings four days before, but when she appears to him again, the woman proves she is real. She is Morrigan, goddess of death, come to warn him his life is about to end.
Morrigan is disturbed by the man she meets. He looks in her eyes unflinching, while all others avoid her gaze. She’s never found such a strong will to survive in any of her charges before. He refuses to accept he’s going to die.
There is a way for Tadhg to cheat death, a secret Morrigan has guarded for millennia. Morrigan can save him if she takes him as her lover, but sex with the goddess of death will change him. He needs time to decide if he’s prepared to give up his humanity in order to be with her forever.
But Tadhg is not the only one who knows Morrigan’s secret. Someone else wants to take by force the gift she can bestow. And he’ll stop at nothing to get it.
Rat-tat-tat, rat-tat-tat, and two more German soldiers lay dead on the ground that had soaked up the blood of so many good men. The smell of cordite stung his nose and roiled nausea in his stomach. He glanced down at their faces, a seasoned soldier, judging from the lines etched around his mouth, beside him a boy not much older than Stephen.
Not now, not now. There had to be time enough to let the agony of taking life from others flow through his heart. He shoved past Morrigán. Someone fell beside him, and he pulled the trigger, shot and killed, wounded, maimed, and moved on. Bullets zinged an inch past him, and he tumbled into a shell hole beside Mark, breath racing in his chest.
And she was there, beside him, silent, waiting.
“I will not die,” Tadhg growled, but rising fear clutched cold fingers at his throat.
“You’re right there, my friend.” Mark clapped his shoulder. “We’re going to get through this shit together and go horseback riding when this fuckup is over.” He turned his attention back to the fighting, back to the air cloyed with hatred, anger, despair, and fear, and killed more Germans so they would not kill him. “Come on!” Mark shouted to Tadhg and launched himself over the lip of the hole.
Tadhg glanced at Morrigán and hesitated. Her gaze rested on him, and he saw eternity in her eyes. “No, Morrigán. No.” And with that he followed Mark, lifted his body from safety — and felt the bullets slam into his chest as if time had slowed to a trickle. He fell and slid back into the shell hole, stared up at the blue sky in stunned disbelief.
Sound receded until he lay in utter silence among screams of pain and anger, in the midst of pounding boots and rattling guns. He felt no pain, but it was difficult to breathe, and something wet bubbled on his lips.
Morrigán crouched beside him. Why did she look angry? “You want to live, poet? You want to live no matter what?”
Again he felt that odd sensation of a part of him accepting, looking forward to entering the land of shades. He could blend with the power of running horses, exist in the steaming joy of early morning gallops across dewy fields. Yet inside him, another part rebelled, struggled for life, even as he sensed the last few grains of sand sink to the narrow waist of the hourglass of his measure of days. And as he lay dying, he rested his gaze on Morrigán’s beautiful, pearl-white face, and the part that wanted to live grew, filled him, became all of him.
“Tadhg, answer me. Do you want to live, no matter what the price?”
He couldn’t speak. Dear God, she offered him a chance, and now, because his lungs were filling with blood, he could not force his voice to reach out for what he craved with his entire being. Blackness tinged the edges of his vision; he fought to hold the receding image of her face. He nodded his answer, and she reacted in an instant, flicked her cloak over his body, and Tadhg felt himself falling, falling into a landscape of terrible dreams.
Comments and questions welcome! Just click on “Comment” at the end of this post. Don’t miss Anida’s Interview below.